This is really tough because I’ve been fortunate enough to have so many awesome teachers in my younger years. There’s my incredible kindergarten teacher that was so loving and understanding of small children at school for the first time. My second grade teacher really loved me but I thought she was mean. My fifth grade teacher really challenged me and my sixth grade teacher was my first male teacher and a great guy. I had an amazing team of teachers in 7th grade, my 9th grade teachers were pretty cool too. 8th grade and 10th grade and beyond though, no one really sticks out much.
But the one that influenced me the most, hands down, is my 7th grade math teacher. He was quirky. He loved math. I had just moved to this town and he didn’t actually live there. He lived closer to where I had moved from. He didn’t fit in with the town, just like I felt like I didn’t either. He encouraged me to keep getting better and better at math. I had a very discouraging math teacher in 6th grade who made me feel inept at math. My 7th grade teacher undid all of that damage in the first few months.
I was in a class of morons, apparently, because I remember most of them not raising their hands much. They all seemed legitimately confused by the math we were doing. I didn’t understand how dopey they seemed. He didn’t ever discourage me from answering questions. If someone else raised their hand, he would call on them first after awhile. I learned without being told that I should wait for them to try and answer first. I never meant to look like a jerk, I just wanted them to be my friends and I didn’t care if they were good in math or not.
This level of overachieving was happening in all my classes, but none quite like math. This amazing teacher went out of his way to schedule a conference with my parents, the guidance counselor, and my other teachers to discuss my placement for 8th grade. There was an advanced class option, but for some reason I wasn’t put into that class when we registered for school. But this teacher fought for me to join the advanced math class for 8th grade. The science teacher argued against it for science, stating that I would be missing essential material the advanced 7th graders were currently working on. And I did. But because of this math teacher fighting for me, I was finally in a challenging math class the following year, which was a huge stepping stone in my academic career. I got a 98 on the NYS Regents for Sequence I that year, which was one of the best in my class.
My dad taught at the high school in the town for a long time, but did eventually drop down to the middle school for a change of scenery. One of his very best friends was my 7th grade math teacher. They stayed friends after they both retired too. I’m not sure if they’re still in touch all that much now, but I think about that teacher sometimes and how big of an impact he had on my life and further schooling.
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